A Scots council has abandoned plans to “downgrade” a Catholic primary after a fierce backlash from parents and a bit of divine intervention.

Education leaders say “lessons have been learned” after it was forced into an embarrassing climbdown over proposals for one of the area’s only faith schools.

Scottish Borders Council wanted to move pupils at Halyrude Primary in Peebles to an upper floor of the building and create a brand new facility for pupils with complex learning needs from the Leader Valley project, who share the building.

The plan provoked a furious response from parents with dozens of objections lodged and has now been withdrawn.

However, parents say they remain unconvinced that the council is committed to Catholic education and say the school has consistently been overlooked for investment.

If this was Glasgow there would be heads rolling left right and centre

There are claims that Ukrainian families settling in the area have been directed to other schools when they inquired about provision.

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During a heated public meeting parish priest, Father Tony Lappin raised concerns that Catholics were not being “treated unequally” and is said to have sought support from Archbishop Leo Cushley to quash the plan.

“It was an extraordinary backtrack, completely unexpected,” said one parent.

“It’s a great little school but there is always a feeling that it’s the last one to be funded.

“A GP told me that she had had Ukrainian patients coming to her and saying that they has asked where they could send their kids and were told there were no Catholic schools.

“Clearly this was an effort to keep the register low and not record demand for RC education in the area. 

“If this was Glasgow there would be heads rolling left right and centre.”

A spokeswoman for Halyrude Parent Council added: “Many families at Halyrude feel that Borders Council are discriminating against a Catholic education within Peebles and making Halyrude less desirable for families to choose.”

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The council has since apologised to families and said it was now committed to ensuring that “all pupils benefit from investment”.

Melissa Gavan, Education Advisor for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, said: “It’s a positive outcome for the communities of both Halyrude and Leader Valley.

"Hopefully we can all engage positively with the council in the future in doing what’s best for our schools.”

It comes as plans to close an Catholic school in Midlothian have been slated as unfairly targeting the community.

Midlothian Council is looking to slice £14million from its budget, with St Matthew’s Primary School, in Rosewell, coming in the firing line.

The school, which has 51 pupils and sits in the grounds of St Matthew’s Parish Church, would be the second denominational school targeted after St Margaret’s Primary School in Loanhead was closed last year.

In 2019, a former police chief sparked controversy after he claimed Catholic schools should be abolished if the Scottish Government is serious about tackling sectarianism.

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Former Deputy Chief Constable Tom Wood questioned if separating five-year-old children based on their parents’ religion was acceptable in modern society.

The Catholic Church described his comments as  “unfounded, deeply unhelpful and offensive.”

A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council insisted that it was “fully committed” to supporting Catholic education.

He added: “Following a meeting with parents from both Halyrude Primary and Leader Valley, it has been agreed that we will undertake a review of planned investment in the building. 

“This is to ensure that all children benefit from any investment in their learning environment and we are very much looking forward to working with the parent groups to achieve this.

“All Ukrainian families looking to settle in the Borders are offered information on both faith and non-denominational schools in the catchment area where they were being welcomed and are able to choose where their children attend school.”